Residents in Melbourne’s west rallying against a planned basketball facility on local parkland have been backed by the construction union, which says its members won’t work on the site.
Some residents in Melbourne’s west are petitioning Maribyrnong City Council to change its plans to redevelop a local park
The McIvor Reserve draft master plan has proposed repurposing part of a dog park into a 1,000-seat basketball facility
The CFMEU says its members will not work at the site if the proposal goes ahead
Maribyrnong City Council will meet at the end of March to decide whether to approve a $60 million redevelopment plan for McIvor Reserve in Yarraville, featuring upgraded amenities, parking and sporting facilities.
A new six-court indoor sports facility would see the existing dog park at the reserve halved in size, which has drawn the ire of some local residents.
A council survey of the community showed that 43 per cent were in favour of an indoor sports facility, while 45 per cent were opposed and 12 per cent were unsure.
As part of the proposed changes, about 163 trees would be removed throughout the reserve, to be replaced by 196 new plantings.
While a “pocket park” has been set aside for the new development, no new community facilities have been proposed.
For Yarraville residents like Mina Mazzeo, the construction of a basketball stadium at McIvor Reserve would serve only a “minuscule amount” of sport players, while ignoring the needs of the broader community.
“The needs are more fulfilled with an outdoor area,” Ms Mazzeo said.
“To take away [parkland] that you will never get back, I feel that it’s probably a misfortune for the community.”
Construction union places ban on proposed site
Construction union CFMEU has joined residents opposing the development of McIvor Reserve, announcing that its members will not work at the site if the council’s proposal goes ahead.
CFMEU secretary John Setka said the move came in response to repeated appeals from concerned residents and union members.
“We have a lot of members that live in that area. Especially during COVID, green spaces were so important to people, kept people sane to be quite honest,” Mr Setka said.
“To see this now happening in this day, and age is almost like a just a big cash grab from the council, and that’s a concern for us.”
Mr Setka said the CFMEU would be taking a firm stance towards any new development until the council agreed to further discussion.
“Until there’s true, real fruitful consultation with the residents, they’re not going to get it up. Our members are the ones that build these projects,” he said
“We’ve got a social conscience on issues like this.”
Basketball community pushes for more facilities
While concerns have been raised about a lack of green space, luminaries from the basketball world have urged the community to consider addressing the huge demand for basketball facilities across the state.
Last year, NBA star and former Yarraville resident Josh Giddey wrote to the Maribyrnong City Council in support of the proposed facility, according to a report by The Age.
Vice-president of the Westgate Basketball Association Sarah Simpson said the community had faced repeated setbacks since 2018, with several sites for indoor courts rejected as unsuitable.
Ms Simpson said the ongoing dearth of facilities in Melbourne’s west was meaning more and more kids were missing out.
“We have many kids on waiting lists who can’t get the opportunity to play basketball because we just don’t have enough courts in the area to facilitate teams or programs,” she said.
“If this proposal doesn’t get up, the kids of the inner west are going to miss out on playing basketball.”
Ms Simpson said the proposed stadium would make a massive impact to kids in the inner west, who are currently forced to play at inconvenient hours.
“Kids are currently training until 10 o’clock at night just to play basketball because there aren’t enough courts,” she said.
“We absolutely understand the concerns around the use of the park, but we feel like the council has done a pretty good job in designing a park that incorporates a stadium and some of the other uses.”
Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze has also been vocal in his support for more investment in basketball facilities across Victoria.
“Right now, right throughout the country, there is a significant shortage. The demand is quite phenomenal,” Gaze said.
Gaze said meeting the growing demand for basketball would have positive flow-on effects for local communities.
“These types of facilities go beyond just basketball, a lot of them become community centres,” Gaze said.
“They have the ability to have social benefits, physical benefits and of course what we’re dealing within society these days, helping people with their mental development as well. Sports can do amazing things.”
However the former NBA champion said facilities should incorporated into communities around them in a way that was “appropriate” and “respectful”.
The culmination of almost a year of community consultation will be a council meeting on March 29, where councillors will consider the McIvor Reserve Master Plan.
The agenda for this special meeting, which contains a report on the plan, will be released on the council’s website on Friday.
Maribyrnong City Council CEO said the report was being released early due to “the level of community interested in this project”.